Abortion rights activists protest outside the Constitutional Court where judges review a lawsuit that seeks to decriminalize abortion in Bogota, Colombia, Jan. 20, 2022 (AP photo by Fernando Vergara).

Across the Americas, abortion rights appear to be heading in very different directions. Looking solely at the U.S., the recent leak of a draft Supreme Court opinion suggests that the 1973 Roe v. Wade ruling—which established a woman’s right to choose to have an abortion without excessive government restrictions—could soon be overturned. If so, it would be a symptom of a general assault on reproductive rights as well as civil rights more broadly. However, looking further south, a different story emerges. Throughout Latin America, feminist movements are winning major victories on abortion rights, and their lessons are instructive: Organizing matters, but so […]

Protesters chant slogans while burning representations of Israeli flags during a demonstration in Tahrir Square, Baghdad, Iraq, May 15, 2021 (AP photo by Khalid Mohammed).

Remember that astroturf conference back in September 2021, when a group of Iraqis gathered in Erbil supposedly to promote the normalization of diplomatic relations with Israel? No sooner had the conference concluded than most of the participants quickly disavowed it. Many claimed they had been misled about the purpose of the gathering, which was purportedly convened to discuss Iraqi reconciliation—not Israel. Some of the participants were threatened with prosecution under Iraq’s 1969 law against normalization of ties with Israel, although none has been formally charged. Shortly after the conference was held, I warned in this newsletter that it was mostly a stunt that distracted […]

A Norwegian artillery observer takes part in NATO’s “Wettiner Heide” joint military exercise, Munster, Germany, May 10, 2022 (DPA photo by Philipp Schulze via AP).

One of the biggest geopolitical questions raised by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine is whether it will transform European defense. At first glance, the answer is obviously, yes. After all, Germany declared a zeitenwende, or turning point, announcing it would invest at least 100 billion euros in its military, while also pledging to meet NATO’s goal of spending 2 percent of GDP annually on defense. Other countries around Europe are similarly upping their defense budgets to meet or surpass the NATO goal. And the EU itself has allocated 2 billion euros to support the provision of security assistance to Ukraine. Europe is suddenly taking defense very seriously and […]

Abortion rights protesters have a heated discussion with a man who is anti-abortion, outside the Supreme Court in Washington, May 14, 2022 (AP photo by Jacquelyn Martin).

In the past few weeks, two ever-divisive issues in U.S. politics have once again reared their heads: abortion and gun control. Debates about the former were sparked in early May by a leaked Supreme Court draft opinion indicating that a majority of the court’s justices are in favor of overturning the 1973 Roe v. Wade ruling that protects a woman’s right to choose to have an abortion without excessive government interference. Activists in favor of protecting the right to abortion, as well as those opposed, promptly took to the streets and digital platforms to advocate for their point of view—and condemn the […]

A university student attends a protest inside Tehran University while a smoke grenade is thrown by Iranian police, in Tehran, Iran, Dec. 30, 2017 (AP photo).

Since early May, Iran has been rocked by protests over a precipitous rise in food prices, triggered by the government’s decision to cut existing subsidies on food products. Since then, prices have gone up dramatically, with staples such as imported wheat increasing by up to 300 percent and cooking oil by close to 400 percent. Within a matter of days, protests that sprang up almost simultaneously in the north, east and center of Iran had spread across the country, eventually reaching the capital, Tehran, where bus drivers went on strike. The rising price of food products are yet another blow […]

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy speaks via remote feed during a meeting of the U.N. Security Council, April 5, 2022 (AP Photo/John Minchillo).

How should one think about the future of the global order and international organizations against the backdrop of Russia’s war on Ukraine? The war has highlighted the limitations of multilateral security institutions at both the global and European levels, as Moscow has blocked or ignored calls from the United Nations and other bodies to cease the hostilities. While some observers believe these organizations are as a result doomed to irrelevance, others have argued that the crisis creates an opportunity to revitalize them. There has been a lot of talk, for example, of changes to the U.N. Charter to stop Russia from using […]

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz hands over an invitation to the G-7 Summit in Elmau to Senegalese President Macky Sall, before a meeting at the Presidential Palace in Dakar, Senegal, May 22, 2022 (DPA photo by Michael Kappeler via AP Images).

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz made his inaugural visit to Africa with a three-nation tour that began in Senegal and concluded in South Africa. His trip came a little over three months after a visit by German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier was abruptly cut short by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. The ongoing crisis there and its geopolitical ramifications—including for food and energy security, international security and the future of the international system more broadly—were prominent features of Scholz’s visit.  The salience of those issues is reflected in the countries on Scholz’s itinerary. Senegal is regarded as a regional pillar of stability and […]

Federico Gutierrez, right, and Gustavo Petro take part in a presidential debate in Bogota, Colombia, May 23, 2022 (AP photo by Fernando Vergara).

Colombians will go to the polls Sunday for the first round of a presidential election that represents a turning point in the country’s politics on several levels. The front-runner in the race, Gustavo Petro, would be the most progressive Colombian president since the 1930s should he win. A former leftist guerrilla, Petro has promised to expand the country’s social safety net, including improved access to health care and education, and reconfigure its economy by moving away from dependence on mining and hydrocarbons. His running mate, Francia Marquez, is one of five Afro-Colombian vice presidential candidates; prior to this year, no […]

Labor Party leader Anthony Albanese celebrates with his partner, Jodie Haydon, right, and Sen. Penny Wong after winning Australia’s federal elections, Sydney, Australia, May 22, 2022 (AP photo by Rick Rycroft).

As Australia welcomes in a Labor Party government for the first time in nearly a decade, the question arises as to whether there will be more change than continuity in Australia’s international and security policy, as well as its domestic affairs. When it comes to national security, there appears little to differentiate the incoming center-left Labor government led by Prime Minister Anthony Albanese from the outgoing conservative Liberal-National Coalition government led by former Prime Minister Scott Morrison. But several issues featuring prominently during the campaign, including climate change and issues of identity, can be expected to shape foreign and defense […]

Paraguayan Attorney General Sandra Quinonez holds an image of the late anti-drug prosecutor Marcelo Pecci, Asuncion, Paraguay, May 13, 2022 (AP photo by Jorge Saenz).

Two weeks ago, on May 10, Paraguayan prosecutor Mario Pecci and his wife of 10 days, the TV journalist Claudia Aguilera, were lying on a beach at an exclusive resort on the Colombian island of Baru, where they were spending their honeymoon. Suddenly, two men on jet skis approached the shore. One walked over to them, aimed a gun and shot Pecci once in the face and then, as he lay dying, in the back. The killing, as Mathew Charles noted in WPR last week, demonstrated “the strength and influence of organized criminal groups” in Paraguay. And indeed, from the […]

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen speaks at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, May 24, 2022 (AP photo by Markus Schreiber).

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen told a gathering at the annual World Economic Forum in Davos this week that Russia is deliberately stoking a global food crisis as a form of “blackmail.” Her remarks underscore Brussels’ fears over an impending global food crisis. Recognizing the high stakes involved in global food security, European Union policymakers are now racing against time to prepare for what they anticipate will be a food security crisis unprecedented in the modern era. Russia’s weaponization of global commodities is not limited to the energy sector, von der Leyen told her audience in Davos. “In Russian-occupied Ukraine, the […]

People hold a banner showing Col. Assimi Goita, leader of the junta running Mali, as they demonstrate to show support for the junta in the capital Bamako, Mali, Sept. 8, 2020 (AP photo).

In May 2021, Mali suffered its second coup in the space of a year, both of which were perpetrated by the same group of colonels. While the first coup, in August 2020, followed a recognizable script of quickly standing up a civilian-led transitional government with the task of guiding the country to democratic elections, the second has upended that “business-as-usual” approach to post-coup transitions. As such, for Mali and for West African democracy in general, it represents a real turning point, revealing the coup-makers’ combination of shrewdness and ambition—a combination that is already being replicated by military juntas that have […]

Russian military vehicles take part in the Victory Day military parade in Moscow, Russia, May 9, 2022 (AP photo by Alexander Zemlianichenko).

At least once at every conference about an international security crisis, in the midst of debate, a participant will suddenly lean back and quote Carl von Clausewitz in a booming voice to underscore a tenuous point. Sometimes, in order to demonstrate that they are not just drawing on conventional wisdom about politics and war, the Clausewitz citation might be followed up by an observation borrowed from Henri Jomini. Every once in a while, there might even be a Sun Tzu quip thrown in for good measure. When it comes to analysis of what the Russo-Ukrainian war tells us about the […]

Chinese President Xi Jinping leads other top officials pledging their vows to the party during a gala show ahead of the 100th anniversary of the founding of the Chinese Communist Party in Beijing, June 28, 2021 (AP photo by Ng Han Guan).

China is gearing up for the 20th National Congress of the Chinese Communist Party to be held later this year, where, according to the consensus view, President Xi Jinping’s historic bid for a third term as the party’s general secretary is all but assured. But for many clear-eyed observers, including inside China, an unprecedented third term for Xi is hardly a cause for celebration. Under his rule, China’s assertive foreign policy has alienated foreign governments and trade partners, while its economy is faltering under the weight of Beijing’s “zero COVID” coronavirus policy. Over the duration of Xi’s tenure, dissenting voices […]

Delegates listen as Malala Yousafzai, not seen, addresses the ‘Malala Day’ Youth Assembly at United Nations headquarters, July 12, 2013 (AP photo by Mary Altaffer).

Young people have been demanding better representation at the United Nations for many decades, but in the past couple of years, world leaders have seemed to catch on. In 2020, to mark the 75th anniversary of the United Nations, all 193 of the world body’s member states came together to release a declaration committing to “listen to and work with youth.” Since then, it has been near impossible to go to a U.N. meeting aimed at young people without hearing phrases like “intergenerational cooperation” or “intergenerational solidarity.” This is no doubt a step in the right direction. In a 2021 manifesto titled […]

Egyptian activist Alaa Abdel-Fattah speaks during a conference at the American University in Cairo, Egypt, Sept. 22, 2014 (AP photo by Nariman El-Mofty).

Editor’s note: This is the web version of our subscriber-only weekly newsletter, Middle East Memo, which takes a look at what’s happening, what’s being said and what’s on the horizon in the Middle East. Subscribe to receive it by email every Monday. If you’re already a subscriber, adjust your newsletter settings to receive it. The United States’ partners in the Middle East continue to enjoy impunity when it comes to Washington’s responses to their human rights abuses. Witness the ease with which Saudi Arabia escaped accountability for the murder in 2018 of Jamal Khashoggi, a Saudi dissident journalist who lived in exile in the […]

U.S. President Joe Biden speaks to members of the 82nd Airborne Division at the G2A Arena, March 25, 2022, in Jasionka, Poland (AP photo by Evan Vucci).

Ukraine wasn’t supposed to stand much of a chance in a military conflict with Russia. It was outgunned and outmanned. In the first months of 2022, as the threat of an invasion loomed, the Russian military was expected to quickly and decisively defeat its much weaker neighbor with ease. Many experts were asking not if Russia could win the coming war, but how far its ambitions stretched within and beyond Ukraine. But as the war grinds on for a fourth month, Ukraine has defied expectations. With external assistance, its military has been able to force Russia’s troops to pull back […]

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